There’s no stopping momentum when it comes to Notting Hill’s restaurant scene. Welcoming the newest addition to the area is Empire Empire, a sister restaurant to the ever-popular Gunpowder restaurants in London. Located a stone’s throw away from the famous Portobello Market, it almost seems intentional that the restaurant oozes a vintage type of vibe. The white-lined tabletops are set up to reminisce India’s “old school curry houses” and the menu takes inspiration & influences across Punjab and Northwest India. On paper, it’s set to be the next hot spot in West London. Now it’s a matter of whether it lives up to the hype.
Empire Empire London: A 70s Disco-themed Indian Restaurant
Founder of Empire Empire (also the man behind Gunpowder), Harneet Baweja, shares fond memories of Indian disco in the late 70s, which inspired the theme behind this restaurant. In his words, ‘we wanted to bring the golden age of Indian music, art and food together in one place’.
The first thing you’d notice when stepping into the restaurant is its jukebox, with a number of Bollywood classics available to choose from. Then as you scan across the room, you’ll find various artworks from famous Indian painters, such as Jogen Chowdhury and Lalu Prasad Shaw, adorning the restaurant walls. Another unmissable feature of the restaurant is the photo booth. Unfortunately, it’s not included with your meal and it’s £3 to get 4 shots. Still, though, it’s certainly a fun addition to a restaurant!
Chicken, lamb, and beef are halal at Empire Empire Notting Hill. Alcohol is served at the restaurant.
Amritsari Tandoori Chicken Wings (£9)
Generously coated with a lip-smacking marinade, these tandoori chicken wings were certainly a saucy start to the meal. Featuring a tangy touch plus a hint of spice, the flavours were delectable to open up the palate. The wings don’t necessarily give that smoky tandoor taste but they’re a good munch nonetheless.
Lasooni Chicken Tikka (£11)
The chicken tikka was not bad and the meat was very succulent to taste. Whilst understandably that Lasooni tikka comes in a milder flavour profile, we still felt it could be spicier and punchier in order to give the dish an extra oomph. One of the highlights for me ought to be the accompanying onion salad which was refreshing to go with the chicken tikka. Various chutneys are served at the table at a cover charge of £1.50 p.p.
Cornish Lamb Shank Dum Biryani (£22)
It’s a reel-perfect moment as you neatly take the bone out and open up the pastry top to reveal the biryani beneath. Admittedly, this lamb shank dum biryani is what caught my attention for Empire Empire in the first place. Visuals aside, the rice was fluffy and fragrant, and we especially enjoyed the extra nutty touch over the pastry top. However, the lamb itself was rather plain, unfortunately, and failed to make an impression.
Butter Chicken (£17)
Despite the “curry house” theme, we thought the curry selection on the menu was a bit small in our opinion. We opted for the butter chicken, which was okay but also an easily forgettable one. Ultimately, the gravy itself was a tad bit lacklustre and missing a rich flavour oomph that the likes of Three Falcons & Copper Chimney had managed to nail down better. The chicken pieces were tender but the dish was, overall, more on the mediocre end. Nonetheless, we moped it all up with a portion of garlic naan (£4).
Saffron Milk Cake (£9)
For desserts, the saffron milk cake immediately caught my eye and you know I won’t say no to one. It came in a large slice of cake prettily sitting in a small pool of milk. Whilst generally fluffy and sufficiently airy in texture, the cake felt slightly overbaked and was a tad bit dry to taste despite the milk. Flavour-wise, it was nice and not too sweet. But overall, we’ve certainly had better ones and it’s not one that I’ll come rushing back for.
Gulab Jamun (£6.50)
As my husband moans about not having Gajar Halwa on the menu, he ‘unwillingly’ settled for the other dessert item on the menu – the Gulab Jamun. The gulab jamun was slightly warm upon serving as two sponge balls sit in a pool of syrup. It was sweet to taste, as expected, but not too sickly syrupy, which was a nice touch. Again, it’s nothing particularly outstanding, but it’s decent enough.
Mango Passion Delight (£8)
At first glance, this almost looked like just a regular glass of orange juice with a glace cherry on top rather than the sophisticated mocktail we were expecting. Thankfully, the delightful fruity & refreshing flavours made up for the seemingly “lack of effort” look. It was a nice drink to enjoy especially during the summer days but we couldn’t help but find the pricing rather steep at £8 a glass.
Empire Empire Restaurant Review Summary
Whilst it was, all in all, an enjoyable meal at Empire Empire, it didn’t necessarily stand out to us. Our visit was during their soft launch period, where we received 50% off the food. The discounted price felt more like what the food was worth paying for and I would’ve certainly expected better if I had to pay for the full price. In comparison to its sister restaurants, Gunpowder seems to offer more fireworks when it comes to food & flavour, whereas Empire Empire seems to be more about the vibes but slightly missing the mark on the food. It’s certainly got the potential and is a great addition to halal-friendly restaurant options in Notting Hill, but it needs more to really win over hearts & bellies.
Chicken, beef & lamb are halal